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“Who knows what we’ll see next?” ESPN founder Bill Rassmussen asked attendees at the 2011 Kellogg Marketing Conference, as he reflected on the rapid evolution of technology and the media.

ESPN founder Bill Rassmussen

Evolution to revolution: Marketing’s next leap forward

Speakers at the 2011 Kellogg Marketing Conference take a closer look at how advancements in technology and media are changing the industry

By Sara Langen

2/4/2011 - When ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen proposed the idea of a 24-hour television network dedicated to sports in 1978, it was a challenge to convince investors and advertisers that people would watch.

“At that time, three networks controlled 93 percent of what Americans watched at 6:30 p.m.,” Rasmussen said during his keynote address Jan. 22 at the 2011 Kellogg Marketing Conference.

“People said, ‘That’s crazy. Who’s going to watch it?’ One person told me, ‘Not only is this not going to work, but cable television is not going to make it to the United States.’”

Believing in your idea and demonstrating a passion for it is critical in getting other people to support it, Rasmussen told the crowd at the Donald P. Jacobs Center. More than 600 students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals attended the annual two-day conference, which featured the theme “Evolution to Revolution: Marketing’s Next Leap Forward.”

“Today, there are nights when ESPN has a bigger audience than one or two or sometimes all three of the network shows,” Rasmussen said. “That’s amazing. Who knows what we’ll see next?”

One of the biggest changes in communications is the rise of social media and the power of customer-driven content. As companies adapt to become more customer-centric, marketers are struggling to retain control of the “message” in a field where customers are exerting incredible influence over how it is communicated. An alumni panel addressed this topic in the “Marketing Leadership in a Multi-channel World: The New Competitive Battleground in Consumer Markets” session.

New channels, including websites, social media or mobile technology, can’t be lumped together, said Karl Bracken ’04, director of merchandise planning for perishables at Target Corp.

“You have to think of it all as pieces in your arsenal so you can address what the customer needs,” he said. “It’s all about creating cohesion over all the different formats.”

These different channels are also changing the role of marketing professionals in the business world, said panelist Art Ash ’90, a principal at Deloitte. The concept of a corporate marketing officer is being replaced by an “experience officer” who acts as a manager, directing decisions involving marketing, sales, technology and creative across the channels, he explained.

“You can’t just jump into social media; you can’t just dip into a tech platform,” he said. “You’ve got to step back and ask, ‘Are we looking at the metrics? Are we taking a portfolio perspective?’”

Mike Brennan ’90, senior vice president and COO of Peapod, and Josh Epstein ’05, senior vice president of MTV Networks corporate and ad sales strategy, business development and operations, rounded out the alumni panel, with Richard Wilson, senior lecturer of marketing and associate director of the Center for Global Marketing Practice, serving as moderator.

Other conference highlights included a keynote address by Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer of Kantar Retail Market Insights, and MBA updates by Kellogg faculty. Those talks were hosted Jan. 21 at Wieboldt Hall, home of Kellogg’s Part-Time Program, during a day of events for alumni and corporate attendees.

See more photos of the 2011 Kellogg Marketing Conference below, including keynote speaker Bill Rasmussen, founder of ESPN, and alumni panelists from the Marketing Leadership in a Multi-channel World.